Nearly a decade later, Phil Donahue’s abrupt firing from MSNBC still rankles his liberal fans, who yearn for the good ol’ days of the Phil Donahue Show, when the veteran television personality gleefully tackled the most divisive issues of our time. Donahue was especially keen on criticizing war, which he began to do quite unapologetically upon arriving at his new perch at MSNBC in 2002. But the network wasn’t having it: The powder-haired commentator, it was said, wasn’t a good look during wartime. Donahue got the boot in early 2003—three weeks before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom—drawing cries of injustice from leftist viewers. But it didn’t take long for the talk-show host to stumble upon another project close to his heart. On a trip to Walter Reed Medical Center in 2004, he met Tomas Young, a soldier from Kansas City who’d been shot in the chest after only four days’ service in Iraq. Moved by Young’s story, Donahue and filmmaker Ellen Spiro embarked on documenting the veteran’s transition to a lifetime of disability. The result is Body of War, an intense film in which Donahue and Spiro follow the daily trials of Young, who, only 25 at the time, returned home unable to walk, regulate his body temperature, urinate without a catheter, have sex, or cough. The film made waves after its release in 2007, when many Americans were already irate about the costly and unjustifiable conflict in Iraq; had it been released years earlier, who knows what the impact could have been.
Phil Donahue shows and discusses his film at 7 p.m. at the Lutheran Church of Reformation, 212 E. Capitol St. NE. Donations accepted. Register at thepeacealliance.org.